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Keeping on Top of Leaks


Roofs of all ages require proactive maintenance.

By Richard L. Cook, Jr., RRC, RWC, CCS, LEED AP

Published in the November 2010 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The roof is an important facility asset.  It serves as a capstone of sorts to the building envelope, yet its importance is often overlooked–as what is out of sight is frequently out of mind.  However, in a time of tighter budgets and increased emphasis on sustainability, it makes more sense than ever for facility managers (FMS) to take a proactive approach to maintaining their roofs.  They can hire skilled designers and contractors, use quality materials, and develop a long-term roof maintenance plan (RMP) that will positively affect their organizations’ bottom lines.

According to the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) Project Pinpoint (a survey derived database intended to compile information regarding the use and performance of roof systems in the United States), while most roofs are designed for a 20 year life cycle, the average age of those replaced is 13 to 17 years.  Often because of a lack of proactive maintenance, roofs are not reaching their maximum useful lives.

“In the long run, FMS wind up spending more by deferring maintenance, because they will need to replace the roof sooner,” says Douglas R. Stieve, Region I Director at RCI, a professional association of building envelope consultants.

By getting organized, FMS can prevent water infiltration crises and ensure the maximum value of a roof installation.  The foremost consideration is the age of the roof and its maintenance history.  Improper installation or deferred maintenance can result in slow leaks undetectable in the interior.  By the time water infiltration appears inside, structural decay can be well underway.  But many roof failures, such as membrane tears, can be repaired fairly easily if caught early.

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